Shawn Henderson of Fort McMurray, Alberta, had always had one dream: play baseball in the major leagues. Henderson was not much of a prospect, but traveled to Florida for spring training to become a “scab” player during the baseball strike. Naturally, once the players’ strike was over, all the scabs, including Henderson, were released.
From there, he would bounce from town to town in the hopes to latch on with a major league club. Would be make it to the bigs?
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Henderson didn’t speak to the media following his epic performance, and chose not to deal with them again in the subsequent days. He didn’t even bother to do any interviews with FAN 590, despite the fact his newfound fan, John House, called in to apologize about his earlier comments. Henderson just didn’t care; he needed a few days off for himself. His cell phone rang often but he never bothered to pick it up; messages piled up in his voicemail until it became full, but again he never once checked them. He simply needed some days off, away from everybody.
The Blue Jays bats took a day off too in Game Five, losing 4-0, before rebounding to win the sixth contest. The city of Toronto was abuzz as the Blue Jays and Red Sox prepared to play Game Seven at the Rogers Centre. Torontonians had the series won. Everyone was talking about the World Series already, and with the American League assured of home-field advantage, nobody in Toronto thought the Red Sox or the Los Angeles Dodgers—the National League champion—was going to claim baseball’s championship trophy in 2008.
It was certainly a sharp contrast to the afternoon of the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, when no one in Toronto had given the Blue Jays a shot as Henderson was scheduled to pitch at Fenway Park. But in baseball, as in life, things could change in a short amount of time. Now every Torontonian was back on the bandwagon. Everywhere in downtown Toronto, everyone was talking about the Blue Jays. Cars proudly displayed Blue Jays mini pennants throughout the city.
Game Seven. It was the first such contest in Blue Jays history. Never before had the franchise, since its inception in 1977, played a seventh game. Thus, it was going to be a historic night in Toronto regardless of the outcome.
Again it was up to Henderson to be the savior. There was no other choice. Rich Ambrozic, the starting pitcher who was bumped from the rotation in the postseason, was no longer on the team. Upset he was bypassed time after time, Ambrozic had left the Blue Jays while the they were still in Boston, to go back home to Mississippi. The generally happy team had fallen apart, and there was tension in the clubhouse for the first time all year long.
Even the normally upbeat Tony Johnson didn’t know what to do.
"Well, guys," Johnson addressed the reporters and journalists gathered around the Blue Jays clubhouse. "You know the Blue Jays are a close bunch. We all pull for each other. But you know, every team has to deal with adversity at one time or another. So, we’ll have to believe in ourselves and get the job done. I have a lot of faith in Shawn Henderson—"
"If you guys don’t make it to the World Series, in your estimation, will this season be a failure, given how well you guys started?" a reporter from TSN asked.
"Well, we’re going to try our best to make sure we don’t use, but I won’t say this season will be a failure—"
"Damn right we won’t lose," interrupted a familiar voice which hadn’t spoken much for days.
Everyone turned to look at the door. Henderson had emerged, and his voice was full of conviction. "Yeah, we’ll win tonight," he promised.
It was the first time since Monday that Henderson had so much as acknowledged a teammate or the media, and Johnson was ecstatic.
"Well, you all heard the man. We’re going to win tonight!" Johnson echoed.
Meanwhile, the players in the Red Sox clubhouse somehow seemed to have the series won for the Blue Jays also. Several Boston players were bummed out and thought they blew their opportunity already. Of course, Aaron Buckley would have none of it.
"Mark my words. We’re going to destroy the building tonight," he told the reporters gathered around his locker. "We’re going to hit so many balls to the outfield that the walls are all going to dented."